• December 16, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Why Are We Still Talking about Silo Busting (Among Other Things)?

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As one year nears a close and a new one is set to begin, it is common for us to take stock of where we are and to re-evaluate our priorities for the year ahead. Well, we're well into December, and that process is in full swing. My email inbox is filling fast with industry analysts’ reflections of what happened in 2019 and predictions about where the CRM industry’s focus will shift in 2020.

While some of the predictions involve revolutionary, cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence, many more of the predictions involve strategies and technologies that have been around for years but have yet to be adopted.

A perfect example is gamification, the subject of our feature “With Gamification, Contact Centers Can Be Fun.” Gamification, which typically weaves interactive video game principles, such as competition, rewards, and recognition, into contact center business processes, has been around for decades.

“Twenty or more years ago, the belief was that agents would perform quicker and more efficiently if work was turned into a game,” Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, states in the feature.

But, as the article also points out, adoption of gamification is still only between 5 percent and 15 percent. The article gives a few possible reasons for this, but there really is no excuse for not latching on to gamification.

Early gamification systems were spreadsheet-based and rather labor-intensive, but since then, systems have been upgraded to the point that they are virtually effortless. With early systems, the use case was a little nebulous, and selling the idea to company executives wasn’t easy. Now, the benefits of gamification to the contact center and its employees have been clearly established, and with bundling from the leading vendors, system costs place them squarely within just about everyone’s budget.

Another key theme for 2020, and one that is also highlighted in this issue, will be the need to break down the silos that still exist at most companies.

Like gamification, silo-busting has been discussed for more than a decade, and, sadly, little progress has been made there either. For some companies, silo elimination “is still a long way out,” laments Ryan Myers, director of Cornerstone Advisors, in our cover story, “Customer Service Becomes a Marketing Tool.” Similar points are raised in our other feature, “Tips to Avoid Drowning in Data.” 

Silos—wherein each department or team focuses on its core duties and priorities to the exclusion of others, causing essential business functions to become fragmented—are still a huge problem at all but a few companies.

Despite all the talk, most businesses continue to have problems getting information across functional boundaries quickly and clearly. Egos and outdated mentalities, habits, business processes, and technologies sustain the walls between departments, much to everyone’s detriment.

There has been some small progress. Companies at least seem willing to acknowledge that the silos exist, but few of them have taken the necessary steps to encourage cross-departmental collaboration, communication, and information sharing. If they have, little of that activity has had any sustainable effect.

Just like with gamification, the excuses for not breaking down the silos are falling away. Now, with artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, unified customer data platforms, and ever-growing partner ecosystems, the ability to share data across corporate divides is much less of a challenge.

Other technologies that are expected to feature prominently in conversations in 2020 include systems for master data management, sales optimization, sales engagement, conversational commerce, digital transformation, content management, and video. The biggest threat to their adoption is inertia. Resistance to change, an underlying fear of innovation, and an unwillingness to break from traditional ways of doing things will be the biggest hurdles to overcome in the new year. We will need flexible and adaptable people and processes to meet the needs of increasingly complex business environments and customer requirements.

Let 2020 be the year that we stop talking about these topics and actually begin implementing them. The time for talk has ended, and the time for action is now.

Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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